Complex partial seizures

Complex partial seizures

In these types of seizures a person's consciousness is impaired. The impairment of consciousness during a complex seizure does not mean the person collapses but it does mean they will not remember the seizure or their memory of it will be distorted. It is important to realise that onlookers may believe the person is fully aware of what they are doing.

Complex partial seizures can take the form of 'automatisms' such as chewing and swallowing, repeatedly scratching the head or searching for an object. Some people may even undress. Occasionally, a person may wander off, recovering full awareness minutes or even hours later, unable to remember anything. Complex partial seizures can spread to the rest of the brain becoming a secondary generalised tonic-clonic seizure. If the progression happens quickly it may appear to be a straightforward tonic-clonic seizure , all adding to the difficulties the doctor faces when trying to make a diagnosis of the seizure type. The brain is a very complicated mechanism, and it is not always as easy as it seems to decide which area of the brain is the origin of someone's seizures.

Partial seizures can occur as a result of epileptic activity in any part of the brain but they most commonly originate in the temporal lobes.To find out where your temporal lobes are, place the palms of your hands on your temples with your index fingers and thumbs covering the top of your ears and the hands cupping the skull, pointing towards each other. Your hands are covering the temporal lobes. It is throught that the most common cause of epilepsy originating in this area is scarring on the brain as a result of head injury, infection or oxygen deprivation. This area is also the most common for small malformations which would not be noticed if they did not cause epilepsy. The temporal lobes are responsible for many functions, for example, registering and remembering information, receiving sound and smell, the production of speech and the emotions.

Typical symptoms of epileptic activity in the temporal lobe area are flushing or sweating, going very pale, or a churning feeling in the stomach. People's perceptions can be changed: some think things are smaller or smaller than they really are; others experience hallucinations. This does not only mean seeing things that are not really there, it can also mean smelling non-existant odours or hearing something that other cannot. Other symptoms can be feelings of fear, panic, sadness or happiness, or feeling detached from one's environment. This can be frightening and difficult to explain. A common symptom is the experience we all know as deja vu, when we are convinced we have been somewhere or witnessed something before. Conversely, some people find very familiar things become unrecognisable - jamais vu.